Sunday, August 9, 2009

The most selfish girl at the FEAST.

At FEAST: Banana/Plantain bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger.

This month's FEAST picnic event was a little low on food. What was provided was very nice and clearly labored over with love [Molly and David were busy serving up bruschetta with a swell spread (white bean?)], but the potluck dessert table was somewhat bare -- both as compared to past events and in considering the number of people in attendance.

Carolyn's blueberry bars were delicious (I wish I could provide something that beautiful and professional looking); Liana's lemon yogurt cake graced the event, but was almost gone (I blinked and didn't get any); and someone had brought a watermelon to be cut up and enjoyed. I added my still-warm banana-bread-with-a-twist dessert offering to the goodies and wandered outside (this was an indoor-outdoor event, with people moving between the church and the park across the street) with my own slice of melon, dripping juice.

More about dessert in a minute. For the FEAST meal itself one had to go around the corner and pay an additional $10 for a generous picnic lunch of sandwich, fruit, curried potato salad, and chips from Brooklyn Standard. Everything looked great, especially the potato salad, but we got cheap-but-tasty tacos from Papacito's for dinner instead.

It was pleasant to sit in the park last night, eating and relaxing, surrounded by friends and strangers and grant winners and artists with proposals.

Work for Pay at FEAST

I visited the proposal tables, strung along the main interior sidewalk of the park. They were swamped with passersby and FEAST attendees. The activity and crowd lent a kind of carnival/street fair atmosphere to the evening. I was also happy to get a chance to see a "Work for Pay" performance while sitting on the grass with friends.

All night, I felt secure, if slightly guilty, with a secret -- I had selfishly saved for myself nearly 1/4 of a loaf of the two (namely, banana and plantain bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger) I had made for the potluck dessert table. I panicked and put the chunk aside (wrapped in foil, deep in my bag) when people began eating slices before I could get it all cut and put out on the table. The rest had been devoured to picked-at-crumbs in 30 minutes or less, I was told.

At FEAST: Banana/Plantain bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger.

I guess they liked it!

The recipe for this bread is from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette, but I found the version I adapted in her book, A Homemade Life. It is slightly different from the one given on her blog.

A note on the book: A coworker who knows I like food and enjoy blogging suggested I read it, and even handed me a copy that was floating around the office. I was inspired by the ideas and flavors in the recipes included at the end of each chapter, and plan to try many of them, but didn't find much in the essays (which make up the bulk of the text) to hold my interest or to recommend a purchase of the book in hard copy.

Wizenberg writes well, and her family and life experiences have clearly touched her in a meaningful way (and each person's own life should hold meaning for one's self), but the book's stories are episodic and, to my taste, probably more charming on a blog or in a magazine article (I have only peeked at her blog, myself). I didn't find much to connect to in the book beyond the recipes.

That said, this bread was excellent, well-received, and I'm going to be making it again. My adaptations and suggestions?
  • Double it to make two loaves at once. You won't be sorry (and you can certainly freeze one or both). I baked both loaves in the oven together, which added about 1/2 hour to the baking time. I tented the tops with aluminum foil for some of the time, as they got very brown, but I had to remove the foil in order to get the bread baked sufficiently. The loaves became quite brown, but did not taste burnt.
  • Don't be afraid to substitute some very ripe plantain for part of your banana. I used 2 plantains (medium-sized) and 5 bananas because that was what I had hanging out in the freezer. I was a little worried about how the plantains would behave, but they did no harm. I did add another 1/2 c. granulated sugar to the amount of sugar already in the (doubled) recipe in order to sweeten the plantain mixture a little more.
  • If you love ginger, add more ginger! The crystallized ginger pieces are what makes this bread special. I think that they should be in almost equal measure to the chocolate chips. I'd use at least 1/2 cup ginger (instead of the 1/3 c. called for) for each loaf of bread. Also, don't cut the pieces of ginger too small.
  • If you're taking this to a party or another event, don't be ashamed if you want to reserve a little for yourself at home. You deserve it!
At FEAST: Banana/Plantain bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger.

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